Podcasts offer a fantastic way to catch up news, listen to radio shows, and get great media delivered right to your computer (they're like newsreaders for media). Check out these five popular podcast managers and let the entertainment come to you.
gPodder (Windows/Mac/Linux, Free)
gPodder looks like a simple no-frills podcast manager, but underneath the hood you'll find a huge array of options and some perks — like the ability to sync to iPods, directory-based portable players and MTP-compatible players. gPodder doesn't include a built-in player but you can specify your favourite video and audio player. If you delve into the advanced options menu, you'll find options for nearly every aspect of the software's functionality — you'll definitely want to read the gPodder wiki before going crazy with the toggle switches however. You can also access some of the more advanced tools found in podcast managers like iTunes, such as the ability to alter the playback speed of your podcasts, but such tinkering requires a close reading of the manual and isn't immediately accessible to the user right after installing the application.
Zune (Windows, Free)
Like you can use iTunes without an iPod, you can use the Zune software without an actual Zune player. Microsoft's offering in the podcast management department isn't half bad considering how new to the portable music arena the Zune is — relative to the iPod, at least. You can subscribe to podcasts from the greater web, browse the Zune marketplace to select from thousands of podcasts, rearrange the order of podcasts using the order-series function, bookmark your place in long podcasts, and stream over the web through your Zune.net account. If you are syncing your podcasts to a Zune, you can enjoy a few nice perks, like the ability to update your podcasts to your Zune over your wireless network and sharing your podcasts with friend's Zunes.
Miro (Windows/Mac/Linux, Free)
Miro is a lightweight and open-source video and podcast manager with strong emphasis on streaming and web-based media. Although other contenders in the Hive Five support video-based podcasts, Miro really shines when it comes to smooth and pleasant playback of video podcasts thanks to its roots as a video player. You can manage your podcasts, set them to automatically download, or make them wait for your go ahead. You can also set how long they'll hang around before expiring and set those values differently for video and audio to help manage how much disk space your podcasts chew up. Miro also imports and exports your podcasts in OPML format, which makes it compatible with all major feed readers and other podcasting clients.
iTunes (Windows/Mac, Free)
Not only is iTunes a popular podcasting manager in its own right, it helps that iTunes was the first introduction many people had to the idea of podcasting. Many a new iPod owner has installed iTunes over the years and upon looking at the navigation column asked, "What's a podcast?" Many of the tricks available in the music-management side of iTunes are available when managing your podcasts. On top of just managing the subscription itself, you can increase the playback speed of your podcasts so you can consume more of them in a shorter span of time, bookmark where you left off both in iTunes and on the iPod, set up smart playlists to blend one podcast into another or make a constantly refreshing playlist of your new podcasts, and tell iTunes how long to archive your podcasts before making room for the new ones. Although iTunes wasn't designed to be a stand-alone podcast manager, it has done a fine job integrating podcatching.
Juice (Windows/Mac/Linux, Free)
Juice—formerly known as iPodder — is an open-source podcast manager. If you're looking for an extremely lightweight, no-frills podcast manager, it would be tough to get lighter and more streamlined than Juice. Juice is focused on grabbing podcasts, downloading them for you according to their refresh rate or your set schedule, and little else. It has a built-in directory and a few basic tools — like a cleanup tool for deleting old podcasts — and that's about it. While the lack of bells and whistles might turn some people off from using Juice — it certainly lacks the visually stimulating built-in directories you find in iTunes and Zune — if you just want a program that doesn't tax your system resources and downloads the podcasts you want, you can't go wrong with Juice.
This week's honourable mention nod goes to Google Reader. Many readers already use Google Reader to manage their text-based feeds, so it was a natural extension for them to use it for their podcasts. The interface is simple and spartan, but you can listen to your podcasts right in Google Reader with the basic built-in media player.
Have a favourite podcast manager that didn't made the Hive Five? Let's hear about it in the comments.